When we emerged from the subway station last Friday after our flight back to Munich, we noticed that the trees were significantly more bare and the weather significantly more frigid than when we left in late October. But that wasn’t the only change. We also noticed that Munich is gearing up for the Christmas season. Just like back home, most of the shops in Germany carry some sort of Christmas theme throughout the store and in the windows. Christmas lights are visible throughout the city and the Marienplatz adds a few more wooden stalls each day — stalls that will house the many retailers who hope to peddle their goods when the infamous Christkindlmarkt opens up on November 30.
All of the sights and sounds of the season led to an interesting conversation yesterday. We were talking about how none of the decorations or lights gave us the impression of being “up too early.” In the States, we see holiday commercials and store displays as soon as Halloween is over. Despite the warm-and-fuzzy feelings we can’t help but feel upon seeing our first glimpse of the holiday season, parts of us are more or less wired to comment about how disgusting it is that retailers and the like have all but forgotten Thanksgiving and are “already” promoting Christmas. We write it off as greed and we call it inappropriate.
But here we are in Germany — the same time of year with the same influx of commercial holiday-ness — and we’re not at all bothered by it. In fact, we’re going out of our way to immerse ourselves in it. We’re seeking out glühwein (the delicious, hot, spiced wine that’s sold during the winter months), shopping for Christmas gifts and stopping to admire (not bemoan) the beautiful, animated storefronts. We’re even planning our final two weekends around which Christmas markets to attend (the current plan has us going to five of them before we leave — including two in different countries).
We couldn’t help but feel somewhat envious that Germans don’t have Thanksgiving to keep them from celebrating Christmas — or at least feeling bad about celebrating Christmas — too early. That sounds terrible to say, but it’s the truth. Perhaps one month simply isn’t enough time to celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year.” Perhaps we ought to be thankful that the commercial aspect of the holiday season means we get to jump into it earlier than we otherwise would (although I would still like to see Black Friday banned). If we look through a more optimistic lens and embrace having two months of Christmas instead of one, would that really be a bad thing?
Germans don’t have the guilt trip that we do of celebrating Christmas too early. Once November hits, it’s time to focus on the holiday season. And considering that 90% of our American Christmas traditions (both how we celebrate it and depict it) comes from the German culture, perhaps we should be more forgiving when it comes to starting the celebration a few weeks earlier.
Thanksgiving will always have its place. It’s one of mine and Katie’s favorite holidays because of its intent focus on family time, the idea of “sharing a meal,” and, of course, the delicious food (and football). But can’t we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving and celebrate the upcoming Christmas holiday on either side of it?
I think so. And when I grow up and have a house, I just might put my Christmas lights up BEFORE Thanksgiving (and even turn them on!).